Live and Collective Soul: Placentas on the floor and a groove core as deep as the Grand Canyon.
By Luke Holwerda
Friday night at the AZ State Fair, traffic was terrible. I just barely made the gig. As I made my way to the pit area, Collective Soul's techs were making last minute adjustments to the guitar amps. Moments later, the lights went down.
At this point (7 p.m.), the house is only at 1/4 capacity, if that. A pretty sad showing -- maybe rock IS dead? I get a text from my friend Chris, a huge Live fan and an even HUGER Collective Soul fan...who paid $300 for 3rd row tickets. He says he’s been stuck in traffic and he’s freakin’ out. He eventually shows up, moments into the third song. Collective Soul put on a really great show. They had a lot of hits I had forgotten about, and with only 45 minutes of set time, it was jam-packed. I've never been a “fan” of theirs, but the show was entertaining, with a lot of energy from everyone on stage. I could tell they were enjoying themselves, rather than just going through the motions. Throughout their set, there was a lot of fan interaction and participation...a lot of trading lines of the choruses with the audience. At one particular breakdown in the set, just before the extended outro of a song, lead singer Ed Roland shouted out, "Most of you know what to do now, some of you don’t. For everyone else, I will teach you. I’m your teacher," before breaking into "whoa-oh-oh, heaven let your light shine down." After a few repetitions, the band dropped the instrumentation down to just a bass drum and some light bass notes. Meanwhile, behind me, I heard an older fellow growl to his group of concert-going comrades, "That’s a groove core as deep as the Grand Canyon!" I smiled and texted myself that line so as not to forget it. Collective Soul's set ended on a big rock coda with Ed yelling, "Tell your friends, tell your family, you've seen Collective Soul!" I did just that, Edo.
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Maybe 30 minutes later, Live took over. I was excited to see them and even threw up my devil horns when lead singer Ed Kowalczyk showed up in front of me. (I was a fan up through their fourth album, Distance to Here, just to be clear.) This was another short set, but similarly bubbling with hits. They opened with "All Over You," and the arena, which was now more than half full, responded in a roar. Lead guitarist Chad Taylor stomped around stage in a manner almost too rockin' for the song; he would sort of get low in his stance and stomp back and forth, shifting his weight from one foot to the next (think: Donkey Kong). Again, they were happy to rock. Live managed to touch on every album in their catalog, even in their short amount of time. I was pleased to hear "The Beauty of Gray" from the band's first album, Mental Jewelry, a nice, acoustic-driven throwback which played very well in the live environment. The band even snuck in a cover of Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line." Ed described it as "A good cover of a GREAT song." I will give them “good” -- it was sort of odd. It rocked in the choruses, but it was somehow MORE monotone than when Johnny Cash sang it. Toward the end of the set, the first few lines of "I Alone" crept in unassumingly, and the song took on a slightly different progression as it reached the bridge. Before Ed would sing the line "We took it back too far/only love can save us now," he had something to say: "Do you watch the news? 'Cause I watch the news from time to time."
At this point, I shook my head, stopped tapping my toe, and waited for some B.S. political banter I did not want to hear at a concert. But to my delight, all Ed said was, "I see what’s going on in the world today, and I think the world needs our love." Phew, that was at least unspecific! "What we in Live like to do, is have the audience help us generate a psychic cosmic love thing, and spread it all over the globe. Will you help us?" Of course I said "Sure;" that's harmless enough. So we all sang the word "Love" over and over. Yay for hippies. Finally, "Lightning Crashes" ended the set. What a great song. Something about hearing thousands of people singing "Her placenta falls to the floor" in unison is really soothing to me. My greasy food-induced stomach ache was gone. Thank you, Live.
After the show, I met up with Chris. All he had to say was, "It was a good show. Of course it rocked, but for the $300 I spent on the tickets alone, I thought I would have rocked that hard for a longer amount of time."